Grand Ole’ Ditch returns to Johnstown

Our Town Correspondent

Bluegrass band Grand Ole’ Ditch will perform at the Venue of Merging Arts on Oct. 17.

The Cumberland, Maryland-based band uses a variety of instruments to create their sound. Some of these instruments include pigeon-holed boxes composed of wires and wood, a banjo, a dobro, a mandolin, a bass, a fiddle and a freight train guitar.

“It’s not every bluegrass band that features top-notch players on both dobro and fiddle, in addition to guitar, banjo, bass, and mandolin,” said event organizer and local musician Micah Mood. “And they also have a percussionist, which can sometimes scare a bluegrass audience . . . but Ditch is truly a bluegrass band, with the percussion adding to their live energy but never detracting from them as a string band. And I haven’t even mentioned their great songwriting and how several of the members sing lead throughout their shows.”

Named after the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal — nicknamed Grand Old Ditch — in western Maryland, the band has performed at a number of festivals and special events. Locally they have performed at Laurel Hill Bluegrass Festival in Somerset and Windber’s Bluegrass in the Park.

Their most recent performance at VOMA took place in April, and the show was sold out.

“As a fan, I can’t wait to see them again, and as a promoter, it’s encouraging when an audience appreciates a group as much as they did at the Grand Ole’ Ditch show back in April,” Mood said.

Ligonier’s StringTyme will open for Grand Ole’ Ditch that evening. StringTyme consists of two local musicians, Amy Clarke and Jeff Bell. 

In addition to their singing voices, Clarke’s and Bell’s instrumentation includes autoharp, acoustic guitar, banjo and ukulele. They started playing music together a few years ago.

“StringTyme is a great folk duo from Ligonier, and I think this will be their first appearance in Johnstown,” Mood said. “I think they’ll be a great complement to Grand Ole’ Ditch.”

Doors for this all-ages, BYOB show will open at 6:30 p.m. and the music will begin at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are highly recommended, and are available online. Reserved seating tickets are also available for purchase. VOMA is located at 305 Chestnut Street in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood.

“(This is) a great opportunity to see live, original bands in an intimate, appreciative venue,” Mood said. “You’ll be able to hear every note, and meet the performers after the show.”